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Stallion Meets Cobra: A Ford Mustang Set to Perform

DJ Scruggs always longed for a pony car. He was originally lusting for a ‘03-04 Terminator SVT Cobra Mustang. Who wouldn’t? The factory supercharged 390 hp stallion is wild enough to get anyone’s heart pumping.  Alas, his dream was too rich for his own blood and he had no choice but to put his want on hold.

The Cobra’s strike was potent, and DJ is not one to give up on his dreams. Only a few years passed before he began scouring the Internet with serious intent until a low-mileage lovingly maintained ‘97 Ford Mustang Cobra dressed in black made him take pause. It wasn’t a Terminator, but he couldn’t resist the desire any longer.

Ford Mustang SVT Cobra

The itch to build a weekend track warrior began with a tickle, but after he experienced the car on a track, the intensity escalated to an exasperating level. The pony remained mostly stock during a three-year honeymoon period, when its main use was cruising the scenery along the winding Northern Michigan roads. Modifications were limited to wheel and tire upgrades, Morimoto HID headlights, and Saleen rocker panels. However, DJ’s desire to drive in anger grew while he spent his evenings polishing every nook and cranny to perfection. It was time to see what this thing could do.

Ford Mustang Cobra

DJ has always maintained his own vehicles and tinkered on dirt bikes and a Ducati Buell XB12Ss motorcycle in the past, so he was ready for a bigger challenge. When his vision of pounding pavement became a goal, the track prep began. To give the Ford 4.6-liter DOHC power plant a proper rumble, he installed a BBK cold air intake and a Flowmaster exhaust, including an H-pipe. The ease of banging gears was improved with a Pro-5.0 shifter. For optimum use of the 4.6 Modular engine’s power band, 3.73 rear gears were installed.

Ford Mustang Cobra SVT engine bay

Weld-in sub frame connectors and strut tower braces were added, which stiffened the chassis to handle the higher stress rates brought on by track driving. DJ also addressed the ride height for improved abuse tolerance, and Fab9 Tuning delivered the goods: a set of BR Racing adjustable coilovers designed specially for the Mustang. Total apex domination was achieved with the installation of Bilstein quad shocks, Steeda X2 ball joints, and a bump steer kit for proper suspension geometry.

Ford Mustang Cobra on Nitto Tires

A set of ultra-high performance Nitto Invo tires (295/30/18 rear, 275/30/18 up front) provides infallible traction that keeps the power to ground. The sticky treads are mounted to American FR500 racing wheels  (18x10 in the rear, 18x9 front). DJ admittedly rolled the fenders to fit the massive tire package inside the stock fender wells. He then had an alignment done, adding a few extra degrees of corner-hugging camber.

Ford Cobra Mustang

To spruce up the interior, a sporty rear seat delete lightened the load. DJ also installed Sparco R100 race bucket seats to meet safety specs with a luxurious flare.

Ford Mustang Cobra and Sparco race seats

The Cobra has given DJ an opportunity to expand his horizons and take on once-daunting projects. With encouragement from friends and help from a plethora of handy YouTube videos, his novice colt became an all-out steed.

Ford Mustang Cobra first burnout

According to DJ, the next step is to address the brakes. The current setup is perfect for cruising, but a big brake kit will give him an advantage: the faster a car stops, the quicker it’ll be. A harness bar and four-point harnesses are also in the near future. Once he gets more seat time and really starts to fly, he may even consider adding aero.

Ford Mustang Cobra Rear

Specs: 1997 Ford Mustang Cobra


March Performance underdrive pulleys, BBK cold air intake with K&N air filter, 3.73 gears, Pro 5.0 short shifter, Flowmaster exhaust with H-pipe


Steeda X2 ball joints and bumpsteer kit; BR Racing adjustable coilovers, SR Performance rear shock tower brace, MOOG bearings and hubs (front), welded in subframe connectors, Bilstein Quad Shocks, rear polyurethane isolators

EXTERIOR: Saleen rocker panels, Morimoto HID headlights

Rear seat delete, Sparco R100 seats, Steeda Tri-Ax shifter handle


FR500-style wheels (18x9 front, 18x10 rear)


Nitto Invo tires (275/18/30 front, 295/18/30 rear)

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